Wednesday, January 16, 2013

So, um, we're going to Tanzania tomorrow...




View from the Aga Khan guesthouse
Taller buildings than we've seen in months
Team Indecision could be our name with our laidback approach to trip planning.  We did not climb Mount Kilminjaro or chase animals in the Serengeti, but we explored our neighbour of Tanzania and took full advantage of the chance to relax, learn a bit about a new place, and fill our days with food, walking, and occasionally organized ourselves enough for a planned tourist activity. 
As we had our professional photographer, Riaz, with us, I will add more photos later to illustrate our random activities. Stay tuned....




From the crowded streets of Dar-es-Salaam to the winding alleyways of Stonetown to the pristine beaches in the north of Zanzibar, Ashlea and Riaz and I filled our days with new experiences and also became reacquainted with older pleasures (hot showers, movie theatres, a bookstore, where am I?!) The entry into the big city was a bit more difficult than I anticipated - who knew a fully stocked grocery store would send me flying and crying into Riaz's arms, but we adapted (and naturally migrated back to the beach anyway).  

The beach at Kendwa

A few days in Dar turned into a week after complications with the business portion of our trip at the Mozambican embassy.  The experience at the embassy was worth the delay and once sorted out with our visas, we explored the twists and turns of the downtown core of Dar-es-Salaam, ate our body weight in street meat, bought toiletries (so exciting after 6 months in Pemba), and even saw "The Hobbit" in 3D!

Bustling Dar-es-Salaam, one of the fastest growing cities in the world
One form of local transport - the bhajaj (a motorbike with a shell)
We fit 6 people plus the driver in one night



 



 
Bhajaj ride - nice and breezy
My comfort at riding changed a bit after we saw a young boy dash by the open window of the car stopped
in traffic in front of us and grab the Blackberry right out of the driver's hand. The driver was helped by a 4X4 truck that pulled over and grabbed an automatic rifle out of the back of the truck. They then ran into the bushes to follow the young boy.  I was happy to get to our destination.
 
Our days of leisure in the big city



Dar-es-Salaam sunset, without the flocks of giant bats
























































After realizing that Team Pemba needed a little more beach and a little less traffic, we boarded the ferry to Zanzibar and began the second part of our trip. No hotel or hostel for us, but a hidden apartment right in the centre of Stonetown where we were a point of interest for the other residents and countless cats who hung out in the narrow alleyways. Zanzibar was fascinating - at times I felt like we had fallen back in time with the crumbling buildings and women covered from head to feet (my own packing was inadequate and I spent much of the time improvising how to cover my skin with a scarf). We explored the Sultans' palaces, Forodhani park and the old fort, and tried not to get too lost (although we ended up discovering all kinds of hidden spots including one of the most questionable nightclubs I've been to and amateur night at a local music academy).
 
Not content to visit just one island, we hired our own rickety dhow ("Desire") to visit the private island Changuu (Prison Island) and also see the famous giant tortoises. My fears of being abandoned on the island or ending up in the middle of the Indian Ocean did not come true and it was a beautiful boat ride from island to island.


Finally on the ferry after being herded and shoved for an hour
 
 


Landed in Stonetown, Zanzibar!

Stonetown harbour


Part of the afternoon routine of watching children jump off the piers


View from our apartment - we opted for a more local neighbourhood feel




Scaffolding - Zanzibar style


 

The famour doors of Stonetown

 

Palace of Wonders




Our time in Zanzibar hit a small roadblock when Ashlea and I had the pleasure of experiencing amoebic dysentery and didn't eat for about 4 days. This put a damper on Christmas Eve even though we watched Christmas carols by a local choir (all done in kiSwahili which was a slight surprise), ate at a local restaurant and listened to taarab music, and changed our plans to attend Midnight Mass at the oldest church in East Africa (it's the thought that counts right?). But once we fought off the amoeba, we were ready for New Year's up in the north of the island at the famous Kendwa Rocks party. With two more Canadians in tow, we drove the beautiful hour long drive to Nungwi and our remote guesthouse before spending almost 48 hours straight on the beach.




Sunset on Christmas Eve
 
Riaz and I at the Serena Inn

Swahili Christmas carols!

Our Christmas Eve dinner accompanied by traditional taarab music
and sitting on the floor

 
Merry Christmas!
Where's the toilet paper?
 
 
Forodhani Gardens - becomes THE place to be when the sun sets


 


We also did the ubiquitous spice tour, which was not our best plan while suffering from an amoeba. The thought of plain water made me want to vomit so trekking through a demonstration plantation with handfuls of cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, cocoa beans, and black pepper being shoved in my face was not the best sensation. But it was still really cool to learn about the famous spices of Zanzibar and sit on a big bus with a bunch of sweaty tourists.
Get on board for the spice tour!

Clove leaves

Vanilla bean pods

Dead Muppet
 
Guess what this is?
Cocoa bean!
 
Jackfruit - not to be confused with dorian (the fruit with worst smell in the world)
Luckily it was out of season in Zanzibar

Seatbelt - Zanzibar style

Drive up north to Nungwi







Happy New Year!

Not a bad spot to ring in 2013

Da Boyz
 
 
Happy New Year!
 





After becoming more familiar with the twists and turns of Stonetown and singlehandedly keeping the textile business afloat, we returned to Dar for a final weekend in the big city. Not the easy cruise back though...our ferry ride began with clear blue skies and ended with the three of us separated in our dash from the top deck into shelter after the skies opened up. It felt like a reenactment scene from a National Geographic special of "When Nature Attacks". They began passing out sick bags (which I had the pleasure of seeing multiple people use) and then one of the staff began yelling at us to sit down with our hands on our knees and telling the children and others to stop crying and screaming. Never thought I'd be so happy to see Dar-es-Salaam...

Having had my fill of the big city, it was time to get back to my Pemba beach!

 
Last dinner in Zanzibar and healthy enough to actually eat

It would not be a vacation for me if food did not figure prominently, especially after exhausting the culinary choices of Pemba.  My enthusiasm was slightly dampened by the stomach bug but I still got a taste of Tanzania including the amazing food items sold on the street (coffee in a china cup while he waits for you to finish, street meat, fruit cut up in front of you, and bowls of soup mixed up out of a million ingredients).  Street corners that were empty in the business district during the day turned into a packed restaurant at night with huge grills and picnic tables set up for the lines of people waiting to eat.  Or Forodhani Gardens where the quiet meeting spot became a carnival of tables and men yelling about their fresh fish kebabs, giant squid, shwarma, and freshly made sugarcane juice with lime and ginger.  We had our fair share of misses (not one to waste food, the attempt at pizza at the Freddie Mercury tribute restaurant was fed to one of the millions of Zanzibari cats) but overall we definitely ate our way through the country. 

Fresh tuna and the first mashed potatoes in 6 months
 
K.T. shop - home of the famous chai, samosas, kebabs, and coconut chutney that you eat with your hands
Almost always standing room only at this Dar-es-Salaam institution - I am proud to say we became regulars at K.T. shop (and the bathroom a couple blocks away)
Zanzibar has bananas the size of my arm (seriously)



The market was a big change from tranquil Stonetown

Rows and rows of seafood

Tusker beer - pride of Tanzania




Two ingredients of the complex soup mix which also included potato, beef,
a boiled egg, tamarind, piri-piri, a thick broth, and a bag of some mystery salty crunchy stuff
 

The final product


Mishkaki - bbqed meat on a skewer
Riaz could wax poetically about this phenomenon.  You cannot walk one block in Tanzania
or Zanzibar without coming across a small charcoal bbq with various sizes and types of meat
being skewered and bbqed.  Served with piri-piri spicy sauce, the cousin of naan bread, and
kachumbari salad of cabbage, tomatoes, and onions.
For people whose culinary lives revolve around beans and chicken, moutains of red meat was quiet the novelty
until we had to stage an intervention for Riaz.
 

The source of the mishkaki?...
 
 
 



 The lofty plans to spend Christmas and New Year's in Tanzania and Zanzibar came true and I was lucky enough to do it with these two lovely Canadians!


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